Back in the day (the end of the ‘70s) when women were pioneers who were trying to penetrate the corporate world, they were joining a boy’s club and instead of oozing power, they did their best to blend in. Under-the-knee pencil skirts with a matching jacket, usually in a sullen grey shade paired up with inconspicuous pumps and a white shirt were the ultimate ‘blend in’ uniform. The fashion guru of the era John T. Molloy even stated in his The Woman's Dress For Success Book that nothing else is acceptable, and that platform shoes, peasant dresses, floral patterns, and sweaters convey nothing else than a loser-like quality.
Luckily, times have changed, and there are far fewer restrictions and the corporate world is no longer a boy’s club. So, now that we have so many options and they’re all up for grabs, how does one define what constitutes power dressing, and more to the point, how does one achieve it? The answers are far simpler than one would imagine, and today, we are providing you with all of them.
Know your audience
While it’s important to exude power and authority through both your demeanor and your choice of attire, it doesn’t mean that your closet should be filled with identical, uniform pieces. There should most definitely exist a variety of choices, none of which are less ‘powerful’ than the next, simply suitable for different occasions.
Let’s take one Amal Clooney as exhibit A. When walking down the red carpet she owns her elegant floor-length gowns. On the other hand, you will never see her in anything less than a conservative and perfectly tailored above- or below-the-knee dress when she’s delivering a public speech on women’s rights. Then again, when she’s in a courtroom, a perfectly professional, yet feminine suit is what she goes for.
So, before you put on your professional armor in the morning, ask yourself – who am I dressing for today? Always know your audience. If your employees respond better to a slightly more casual outfit, dress for the part. An important meeting with serious investors and superiors who like their smart attire super smart – suit up. If applying for a job in a creative field, go for something that will be professional but also show your creativity. It’s all about knowing your crowd, and estimating what exudes power in your particular workplace. If for instance, you’re working in a stereotypical start-up-business, a conservative dress or a suit can seem a bit over the top, and you might want to take it down a notch, bring it closer to Anne Hathaway’s character in The Intern.
Dress to express
Even in the most conservative workplaces, there is always room for you to make an impact, and that is done through the clever use of accessories. For instance, Australian girls love the business dress code, but they also need to put a personal stamp. Some of them do it with cleverly selected, conspicuous yet sophisticated jewelry.
Others go for the mighty luxury bags such as the ones you can see right here, and they choose bags as their statement piece because they are easily combined and equally suitable for both work and a night out. It can be anything in the world really.
Take Christine Lagarde for instance. As one of the most powerful women in global finance, she is often found in a grey suit, surrounded by men in grey suits. With a chic usage of a scarf, she always manages to set herself apart from the crowd, and more than that, appear even more powerful than everyone around her. Never underestimate the power of an accessory well-played. When you play your cards right, not only will you exude power, but also show that you are powerful enough to ‘break the rules’.
One of the first things you should know when assembling your power dressing arsenal is the choice of colour. If true dominance and authority are what you’re looking for, black communicates both elegance as well as seriousness. Every colour comes with its set of meanings, so before you get around to picking a colour, always bear in mind the kind of message you want to send.
One thing is for sure, an abundance of colour and patterns will definitely not make the desired impact, and that is why many young professionals are crossing over to the minimalist fashion movement. It’s simple, it’s always elegant without exceptions, and the colour palette is simple enough not to make a mistake yet interesting enough to construct incredible outfits with.
Aside from colours, you have to mind the cut and silhouette. It’s all about the fit, as clothes that are oversized and baggy will most certainly not put you in a position of ‘power’. When you’re wearing inappropriate clothes, according to a phenomenon called enclothed cognition, you can’t be externally perceived or feel appropriate and competent, and that shines through.
Comfort = confidence
There isn’t an outfit in this world that will enable you to channel that confidence you need to conquer the workplace if you don’t feel good in your skin. Today’s goal-getters play more roles than one, so always make sure your outfit makes you feel good, and even more importantly, that it can make an easy transition from office time to cocktail time.
This is another reason why clothes need to be well-tailored and fit like a glove – if you don’t feel in your own skin, it will transpire, so always mind the fit and keep your confidence levels high.